Portland Timbers: 2012 Brings a New Beginning
There is no doubt about it. March is pretty special in a sports fan's mind. Not only do we begin the NCAA tournament, we also see MLB begin its hunt to the opening day. However, in Portland, the city begins its hunt for a MLS Cup championship.
This is the second year that the Portland Timbers will look to make the playoffs as they missed out by a mere few points last season. Even with the excitement that brings the city to its feet and the Timbers Army singing for over 90-plus minutes, let's take a look at who graced the pitch for the first night of the 2012 season against the Philadelphia Union.
Now by all means, this is my personal grade of each player through my own eyes—they are also squarely based on the game at hand, which was played in miserable rain-soaked conditions all night.
Troy Perkins worked his ability the best he could on the field, which led to a decent game on his part. In fact, his game was largely unrecognized for what he can do on the pitch. Philly often stumbled to find an attack to bring the ball home due to the Timbers' constant defensive skill.
With that, he did make a great save and left his position for what could be seen as some unconventional punches out of the box. However, he did allow a free kick goal that just sailed right by him.
Palmer had a solid night on the field. He was active all night long, going box-to-box. He wasn't a factor on the stat sheet, but he certainly held his own.
When I heard Hanyer Mosquera wasn't going to make a start I wasn't sure how Brunner would express his talent on the field. Not that I didn't think Brunner would do a great job as he did last season—I was more looking at how he would lead Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
After a night of great work keeping the Timbers' end of the field safe, I say that Brunner can do what he is planted on the pitch to do.
What can I say about this man? The score he had could have not been more beautiful. He quickly redeemed himself after critics said he was inexperienced and possibly not ready for the first team. Based on some solid defending in the second half and the goal in the 54th minute, I think he deserves to tell reporters to hush.
Wallace had a excellent night, to the point where he surprised me by not showing up on the goal sheet. His crosses were more often on target than off, and he attacked the goal area with passion.
MAN OF THE MATCH!
There is no doubt about it, Kalif had a beautiful goal in the 76th minute that finished off Philadelphia Union as well as an assist on new designated player Kris Boyd's header. If he wasn't scoring or assisting in goals, he was very active at tearing Philly apart with his attack in the backfield. He not only got them confused and off their feet but was a thorn in their side.
What can we not say about Captain Jack? This man knows how to work the Timbers into formation that is needed to become a successful opponent in the hunt for the title. Not only was he responsible for two of the three assists, but he was all over the pitch. From early signs, Jack looks to be a box-to-box midfielder who can get passes into the right spot of the opposition's goal box.
Pretty quiet night for Chara. It wasn't all bad, as on a few occasions he had some good runs with teammate and fellow Colombian Jorge Perlaza.
Sixty-six minutes was about all that came for Alexander on Monday, but he was dominate on the left side of the field. While Kalif was just as even, he was constantly creating problems for Philly all night. His performance against the Union questions just who will take demand of this spot in the lineup.
He came, he played, he used his head. There's not much else we can ask from Boyd—he has done everything the team and ownership has asked him to do since signing him. Despite his reputation of being lazy, he did hustle up and down the field—something he has been working on consistently. This was a huge night for not only the team, but Boyd himself.
Perlaza just couldn't seem to get into the rhythm of the night. Let's not jump to conclusions and say he didn't contribute to the win, it just wasn't in the form of a goal or assist. He did live up to his reputation of being a striker. He has great speed that the team is known for, but all together it just wasn't a night for him to shine like he will as the season moves along.
The Timbers Army
What can I say—probably one, if not the best supporter group in MLS. They were non-stop even in the pouring down rain. These supporters sing, chant and celebrate the whole 90-plus minutes. Without them, Jeld-Wen Field would not be as unique as it truly is.